No matter what breed, sex, or even age your horse is the Henneke Scoring System can evaluate their body condition. This objective system developed by Don Henneke is widely used in the horse industry. Terms such as skinny or fat can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask, but this score system makes it much more clear.
If you’re interested in judging your horse’s body condition based on the scale, you’ll have to check six parts. They include his neck, shoulder, withers, loin, ribs, and tailhead.
The scale is based on 1 (poor) to 9 (extremely fat).
1 / Poor: Extremely emaciated with no fatty tissue. The bones will be easily noticeable in the neck, withers, and shoulders. The ribs, tailhead, and loin will protrude.
2 / Very Thin: Emaciated, but there will be slight tissue cover over ribs and tailhead. Neck, withers, and shoulder bones will be visible.
3 / Thin: Slight fat tissue coverage over body. The withers, shoulders, and neck will not appear overly thin. Ribs will not be visibly discernible.
4 / Moderately Thin: Withers, shoulders, and neck will not appear overly thin. Tailhead may or may not appear. An outline of the ribs will be noticeable.
5 / Moderate: Ribs can be felt, but not seen. Shoulders, withers, and neck will be rounded and smooth. Tailhead is spongey.
6 / Moderately Fleshy: Ribs and tailhead are spongey. Fat appears behind shoulders and along neck and withers. May have a slight groove/crease down back.
7 / Fleshy: Ribs have fat between them. Crease can be noticed down back. Tailhead is soft from fat. Deposits of fatty tissue around shoulders, neck, and withers.
8 / Fat: Neck is noticeably thicker. Withers and shoulders filled with fat. Soft fat surrounds the tailhead and ribs are difficult to feel.
9 / Extremely Fat: There is an obvious crease down the back. Fat bulges on neck, tailhead, withers, and behind shoulders. Fatty patches over the ribs.
Ideally, your horse will fall in the moderate category. Knowing this scale can be useful when talking to your vet and nutritionist. Keep a good eye on your horse’s body condition to see if he becomes too thin or fat.